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April 18, 2018


by Mike Henry
Veteran takes time to reflect on milestone -- but not much; Keith Nations-trained filly takes top spot alone in track win standings; Samy Camacho rides three winners, has 28 over last 11 days here.

Mike Allen isn’t given to waxing nostalgic about his 32-plus years as a jockey, even after his 2,000th career victory Friday at Tampa Bay Downs unleashed a flood of memories.

But the reaction from family, friends and horsemen helped him put the magnitude of the achievement in perspective.

mike allen

Mike Allen

“I had one trainer say, ‘What percentage of jockeys do you think have gotten to 2,000?’ and I had no idea,” Allen said. “I knew (2,000 winners) was a big number, but I just didn’t really think about it.

“It’s exciting. We went out to dinner with friends and family to celebrate, and it was pretty cool. I’ve had a lot of people congratulate me, and it feels good to have that many people acknowledge what a feat it is.”

Allen reached the two-century mark in Friday’s first race on Diva Chick, a 4-year-old filly trained by Dennis Ward and owned by the conditioner’s Ridenjac Racing outfit.

The victory took on added meaning today when Allen, who is tied for 13th in the track standings with 16 victories, was selected as the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month.

A victory Sunday on 4-year-old gelding Little Leo for trainer David Fisher was the 50-year-old Oldsmar resident’s fourth from his 10 most recent mounts, sewing up the honor.

Such recognition is welcome, but Allen and the vast majority of jockeys at tracks across the country aren’t in it for the plaudits. “It’s in my blood,” is Allen’s plain, straightforward way of saying he’ll likely be around the racetrack, one way or another, for as long as he’s able.

“A lot of my career has been a grind, year after year after year,” said Allen, who rode 100 or more winners six times from 1993-2007 but has averaged 39 a year since 2008. Injuries, including a broken foot and a dislocated thumb in recent years, have been a factor, along with the inability to connect with a top agent and the barely perceptible decline that affects all but a handful of top riders.

“My body is fine. I still get on a lot of horses in the mornings, and that keeps me strong and fit,” said Allen, who won a state wrestling championship at Hazel Park High in Michigan as a junior at 103 pounds. “I never get tired in the afternoons, but it’s hard to keep my weight down when I’m only riding two or three horses because I’m not sweating as much.

“It’s really a tough jockey colony here every year,” Allen added. “You have leading riders from everywhere and even if it’s at smaller tracks, it doesn’t matter; they’re all good riders. And a lot of them come here with different stables, so you’re knocking your head against the wall trying to get into some of those barns.”

Still, Allen perseveres, his roots established deep in the sandy Oldsmar oval. His wife of 28 years, Lisa, and their 24-year-old daughter Alexis pony horses to the gate in the afternoon while they plan for a move soon to western Pennsylvania for the upcoming Presque Isle Downs meeting.

“The only thing about being 50,” he mused, “is that my kids are all grown up now.” Not quite, exactly: 14-year-old son Connor is a high school freshman, and Garrett, 19, sells home security systems door-to-door in Virginia. “He’s doing great – he just has a knack for it,” Dad said.

The next step, when that inevitable day arrives? “I’ve thought about going to stewards school, or being an agent, or possibly training. Who knows?” Allen said. “It’s most likely going to be around the track.”  

Around the oval. Trainer Keith Nations sent out 4-year-old filly Jermyn Street to win today’s seventh race on the turf, a 1-mile allowance for older fillies and mares. The victory was her fifth at the 2017-2018 meeting, breaking a tie for most wins by a horse this season with 3-year-old gelding Meilleur and 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding His Name Is Sue.

Jermyn Street, a daughter of Quality Road-Servalina, by A.P. Indy, who won two of the four legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series for fillies and mares, has been ridden in all her victories here by Jose Ferrer. She is owned by Vince Campanella and the Nation’s Racing Stable enterprise of the trainer and his wife, Cheryl.

Red-hot jockey Samy Camacho rode three winners today, giving him 28 over the last 11 racing days at the Oldsmar oval. He has ridden at least two winners each of those days, with the exception of a single winner on April 11.

Camacho won the second race on first-time starter Delta Belle, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Donarra Thoroughbreds and trained by Arnaud Delacour. Camacho later won the eighth on 5-year-old mare Pure Gemmz, a homebred racing for Ad Hoc Stable and trained by Bill Sienkewicz.

Camacho swept the late daily double by winning the ninth race on the turf on Repeat Repeat, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Brent Gasaway and trained by Michael Stidham.

Antonio Gallardo rode two winners today. Gallardo won the first race on Gato Guapo, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Lucky Shamrock Equine and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. The rider added the fourth race with Buy Tway May, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Ups and Downs Racing and James F. Hunsuker, Sr., and trained by Monte Thomas.

In the sixth race, Daniel Centeno piloted 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Halfback to his third victory of the meeting. Halfback is owned by Ray Rech and trained by Gerald Bennett, who is tied with O’Connell atop the trainer standings, 43-43.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:52 p.m. The track conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 6, except for May 2.

Sunday, May 6 is Fan Appreciation Day, with free parking and free Grandstand admission and discounted prices on draft beers, sodas and Nathan’s Hot Dogs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Thoroughbred racing will return to the Oldsmar oval on June 30 and July 1, dates which make up the track’s annual “Summer Festival of Racing.” The June 30 card is the official final day of the 2017-2018 meeting, while the July 1 program is the first day of the 2018-2019 season, expected to then resume in late November.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.